On Friday, January 22, the Phil Mechanic Building changed hands. The longtime owners, Mitch and Jolene Mechanic sold the building to James Lifshutz, a real estate investor and developer from San Antonio, Texas.
Lifshutz is no stranger to urban infill development with an arts-twist. He developed the popular Blue Star Arts Complex in San Antonio which has become the anchor for a revitalized Southtown (the collection of neighborhoods south of the central business district). “I am very pleased to be a part of the exciting things going on in the RAD. There is a great vibe here, and even greater potential to build on it to realize the vision for an interesting, pedestrian-friendly, art-centric urban neighborhood – with residential options, art studios and galleries, and of course food, beer, and entertainment.”
Jolene Mechanic has poured much energy and heart into the building and its programming over the years – she is moving on now, but with mixed emotions. “It has been so gratifying for me to have been an early positive influence in the RAD, to have had the opportunity to showcase the important work of so many gifted artists over the years, and to have made so many lasting friendships. I will miss it”, says Jolene Mechanic.
To which Mr. Lifshutz responds, “I am amazed by how much positive activity that Jolene generated during her ownership. The Asheville arts community should be ever indebted. And although much of that programming has ramped down over the past couple of years, it remains imprinted on the building.”
Lifshutz is buying the Mechanic Building with the intention of changing some of the uses, including converting some space to residential use, and a possible brewery or restaurant on the river level. “But art is in the DNA of the building, so must continue to be featured prominently in the mix. What will the final mix be? My intent is to spend the next year or so figuring that out by way of a planning effort that will involve my consultants, the City of Asheville, current tenants, and other stakeholders. I am looking forward to it. “